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The benefits and perks of working in France

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The benefits and perks of working in France
Here's a list of benefits you should make sure your French boss is giving you. Photo: Bpsusf/Flickr
20:03 CET+01:00
Benefits for employees in France can sound too good to be true for many expat workers and in some cases they are. So The Local asked an expert in labour law to give us the lowdown on which perks should be yours under law and which others you might have to ask your boss for.

The French would call them benefits, and Anglos would probably call them perks of the job.

But whatever the name, working for a company in France can have its advantages, whether its helping you to afford a proper lunch or the journey to and from work.

But as France has mountains of special programmes, complex labour agreements and perplexing regulations and rules, it can be tough to understand which benefits (avantages sociaux) you are actually entitled to. 

The good news is most workers in France are promised, by law, an array of advantages that make typical Anglo benefits like "flexi-time" or working from home seem entirely inadequate.

"We have many clients from the UK or United States, English-speaking countries, and they do feel that in France we have really good employee benefits," legal associate Jessica Ip, from Parisian law firm Triplet Associés told The Local. "We are, in a lot of ways, really well protected."  

But exactly what are you entitled to by law, what can you hope your company provides and what do you have no chance of getting? Here Ip, a specialist in labour law has helped us bring you a breakdown of French benefits. See how many you get.

1. RTT days 

Bosses must compensate you, in most jobs, for working more than 35 hours per week. In the late 1990s France decided a shorter working week would reduce unemployment, so it cut the week to 35 hours. Accordingly if you work over that limit you should be entitled to something most workers call RTT days (Réduction du Temps de Travail).

These are in addition to your usual paid holidays and are part of the reason why French workers are often able to take the whole of August off. In theory employers who don’t give you this time off should have to pay you overtime. 

2. Subsidized travel

If you take public transport to and from work your employer has to help cover the cost.

Any company operating in France has to pay up to 50 percent of its workers' monthly public transportation pass. The law used to be subject to some exemptions but now applies to all workers who have an “abonnement” (monthly pass) to the bus, metro, train, RER or tram.

This is normally done automatically through your wages but in some companies you may have to apply separately. So make sure you go to HR and ask for the form to fill in. If you are freelance at a company then the chances of having your travel refunded may depend on the amount of hours you do.

3. Restaurant vouchers

"Tickets restos" or luncheon vouchers are mandatory only in cases when there’s no on-site cafeteria or self-service kitchen. In the cases where vouchers are required, the cost is split 50/50 between workers and management. New rules are set to be introduced this springthat will get rid of the old paper version of the tickets. The vouchers will soon be charged up on to smart phones or cards. There will be a maximum spend of two tickets a day (19 euros) and the vouchers will not be able to be used on sunday's or bank holidays. Around 3.5 million workers in France benefot from thee use of vouchers.

READ ALSO: Top tips for surviving a job interview in France

4. Paid days off for weddings and funerals

Your French boss has to give you four days off when you get married and two days off if your spouse or child dies. But you are also guaranteed a day off when you and your partner join in civil union (PACS). And when that son or daughter, whose birth brought you 11 days off, gets hitched, you are entitled to a day off to attend the wedding.  

5. Subsidized healthcare

At present French companies don’t have to provide workers with top-up health insurance, known as a “mutuelle”, which pays towards medical costs not covered by the government.

However, starting from 2016 it will become mandatory for companies to offer a “mutuelle”, although the insurance policy they offer, what it covers and how much of the cost it will cover, will depend on each company and the industry in which one works.

Companies often split the cost of top-up insurance policies with employees, by deducting it from the monthly salary. You should be able to see this on your payslip.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons why France is a great country to work

6. Guaranteed maternity leave

Your French boss has to give you 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. It generally breaks down as six weeks before the birth and ten weeks after. Though many expecting mothers get notes from their doctors to stop working six weeks prior to the due date.

To qualify for paid maternity leave you must be registered with France’s social security system for at least ten months before you give birth. You must have worked at least 200 hours over the three months preceding. You will be paid your full salary up to a ceiling of €3,031 a month, according to the latest figures, although some private companies pay the full salary. In the public sector  there is no ceiling.  You cannot be fired while on maternity leave, either.

7. Guaranteed paternity leave

New dads are entitled to 11 consecutive days off, which include weekends, following the birth of a child. If a family welcomes twins, the father get another six days off work. In most cases the government is responsible for paying you during paternity leave, with similar caps placed on earnings, as is the case with maternity leave.

France tries to coax fathers to take parental leave

8. 'Thirteenth month' bonus

Your employer may have to pay you the so-called 13th month bonus, which, as its name suggests, is simply an extra month’s pay, that most people use to pay their taxes. Under French collective bargaining agreements there are certain sectors, like law firm staffers who aren’t lawyers, who are entitled to the 13th month. However, it is not required of all employers.

9. Employees council 

In bigger companies you might benefit from discounted cinema and performing arts tickets through your worker’s council ("Comité d’entreprise"). If your employer has more than 50 workers, elections must held to name people to the council. The council then, among other services, frequently offers cultural or travel offers to workers.

10. Minimum wage

Yes, France has a minimum wage (known as "le SMIC"), so make sure you are not being paid what you legally deserve. A French employer cannot pay you less than the equivalent of €1,445 per month before taxes or €9.53 per hour.

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